March snowbiking.

Here in Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota, one never knows when winter will end. Since I moved here in 2001 we’ve had snow to ride as late as the last week of April. There’s been a couple of years since I started fatbiking in 2006 that there’s been continuous snow pack from mid-December until mid-April. Then there was the Spring of 2012 when we had a complete thaw in the middle of February and not any snow the rest of the season. That was crazy unusual.

This winter started out slow for accumulating snow. We had just enough to cover the ground starting in mid-December. Thanks to a lot of bitter cold temps, it has never melted off despite the lack of any base. There’s been just enough to ride. January was very cold, but absolutely no new snow. Then February we got a couple of feet of snow, mostly in the last week of the month. That has set us up for two weeks of fantastic snowbiking. This past week has been dry and sunny. We’ve been losing a few inches every day.

I’ve learned to get out when the conditions are good because you never know when it will be the last time out on snow for the year.



The above picture is from a great ride last Saturday. It was warm, around the freezing mark. With no wind and the sunshine, it felt like summer. The best part of March riding on days like this are riding with one or two layers, no hat and no neck gaitor, yet be able to stay completely comfortable. With no wind, stops can last as long as I like without getting cold.

Last Sunday was the switch to daylight savings time. I was looking forward to after work rides with enough sunlight for a ride lasting a couple of hours.


With the temp again around the freezing mark and dropping as the sun went down, conditions were fantastic.I had a great ride on the second day of Daylight Savings Time.

The rest of the week weren’t as good for snow conditions. I didn’t get out again after work. We had sunny days with temps in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s. This made for very soft, and wet, conditions. Although, we didn’t lose all our snow, it was quickly disappearing.

Last night we had a low of 17F degrees. Cold enough to really firm things up. I am not a morning person, but I knew if I wanted to some good riding I would have to get out early before the temps started getting too far above the freezing mark.


I managed to get myself up and out by 9:45. The temp had already warmed to 32F degrees. By the time I would get back home it would be 44F degrees. By 3 o’clock it was up to 52F degrees. Making a plan paid off. I got out, had a great ride, and may have gotten in one last ride before the snow is no more. No snow in the forecast. It’s likely we could lose most of our snow before it snows again, if it snows. Once the base is gone, it’s usually a sloppy mess if we get more snow.

Here’s a map and elevation profile from today’s ride:



It’s been a good winter. I’ll try to summarize it in another post.

A weekend with two different types of fatbike rides.

Smoke and steam from the stacks below show the lack of wind.

I had high hopes for getting in some good fatbiking rides this weekend. After the two week long January thaw there was nothing but ice everywhere. Earlier in the week we got a 3 inch snowfall. That was just enough to cover the ice. A dip in temperatures down around zero, and below, insured it would compact nicely onto the ice. Mid-week the local mtb club posted they had done some grooming. Things were looking up for getting back out onto the trails without having to worry about ice. The loop in Brewer Park was one of the sections that was groomed. Saturday I left the house and rode the one mile to the trailhead to access the Brewer Park trails.

This is along the road on the way to the trail head.

It was quite pleasant with warm temps, 20F degrees, and no wind. Dense cloud cover made for low light conditions. It was hard to take photos. I was somewhat disappointed with the conditions. It wasn’t what I was expecting. The trail was covered in frozen footprints. If you’ve ever ridden over frozen footprints, you’ll know it’s not fun. Even fat tires don’t smooth those out. The fatbikers that use the local trails are good about not using the trails when they’re too soft. The walkers and runners don’t seem to be aware they’re leaving depressions. If you’re leaving depressions runners and walker’s you need to use snowshoes or stay off the groomed trails. I felt pretty beat up by the time I was finished with the loop. Here’s some more pictures from the day:

I didn’t feel like repeating the beating I took on Saturday, but I still wanted to get in a ride on snow. The first 9 years of owning my fatbike I rode the local snomo trails. Two years ago is when I switched to riding mostly mtb trails. That’s when the building of mtb trails came to my neighborhood. Plus, as the popularity of fatbikes exploded the Minnesota DNR strongly suggested fatbikes should not use snomo trails for safety reasons. Today being Superbowl Sunday, I figured many people would be at pre-game gatherings rather then out on their snow machines. I was correct. In two hours on the trails only 12 snomo machines passed me. I ALWAYS yield to them by stopping and stepping completely off the trail to let them pass.


Today was completely different. The sun shine was bright and fantastic. The February sun is warm enough to stay comfortable when stopped out of the wind. The temp was 15F degrees and the wind was light. It was just about perfect conditions to be out on the trails. It felt great to be out on the trails I spent 9 years on. It’s where I did all my training for the two Arrowhead Ultra 135’s I started. Over the years I put in over 7,000 miles of fatbiking on snow on these trails. It was glorious to be back out on these trails once again.






Over all it was a great weekend on the Pugsley.

Weekend report: First full weekend of 2017

The first full weekend of 2017 included more of this:







Sunday was much more overcast but just as fun.





If things go as planned, next weekend report should be a bit different. Winter camping is being planned. No bikes, we’ll be using snowshoes and pulks. It’s been 6 or 7 years since I’ve had a friend interested in trying winter camping. This trip is one we planned almost one year ago. I ended up cancelling that one at the last minute due to windy conditions with temps in the -20F degree range. Not the best conditions to take a first time winter camper on. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Good while it lasted, and weekend report.

View from the Piedmont trails.

Winter came on with a blast just before this past weekend. Bitter cold with a  few dustings of snow. People think I’m crazy because I get excited about the bitter cold. As an avid winter fatbike rider with over a decade of experience riding winter trails, I know what a good Arctic blast of cold air can do to firm up the trails. Sure you can have fun on winter trails at 20 or 30 degrees fahrenheit, but the really good riding doesn’t start until you get below zero. Minus 10 or minus 20 is even better.

The local mtb club got out with their groomer on Saturday just before the overnight temperature dipped into the high teens below zero. Despite very little base, probably 6 inches or less, the grooming timed with the drop in temps created some nice conditions. I headed out late Sunday morning when the temp was still -7F degrees. The trails were firm, but not perfect. A few more snowfalls and a few more groomings are needed to make great conditions. But after the long warm Fall, it was great to be out in the bitter cold riding snow.

This is the only picture I took on Sunday before my phone froze and wouldn’t turn on.

The bitter cold was brief. By Monday it was warming into the low 20’s again. I wasn’t needed at work and had the day off. I managed get out before it warmed up too much. Even though the temps were in the low 20’s, it had been below zero over night. This second night of bitter cold firmed up the groomed trails even more. The conditions had improved overnight. I had a great day of riding with the Brewer Park and Piedmont trails all to myself. Here’s some of the pictures I took Monday.





Today the temps rose to 40F degrees with sunshine. I have to admit the good trail conditions will have disappeared. I will have to wait until another snowstorm and cold temps comes around to get back out on the trails.

Note: Internet access issues prevented me from posting this last evening. I also had more to write. But I’m going to post what I have so you all can enjoy it before the week is over.

Weekend report: First snowy rides of the season.


The same spot one week apart.

I look forward to winter. I keep saying the funnest riding I do all year is the riding I do on snow with my Surly Pugsley in snow. I get giddy when the forecast calls for a snow storm. This year we had a very warm November. A very late frost, perhaps a record late frost. The wait for snow has been much longer than normal. But when the weather did change, it was abrupt. The two pictures above were taken from the same spot one week apart. Open water in one, snow covered ice in the other. I’ve been giddy. Saturday we had just enough snow to make it feel like snowbiking. I hit the MTB trails in my neighborhood. The temperature was 10F/12C degrees. That definitely made it feel like winter, finally.


There were other fatbikers out on the trails on Saturday as well. I remember when I bought my Pugsley, I rode all winter for 6 years before I saw another fatbike on the local trails I was using. What a change.

Sunday we had fresh snow when I woke up and light snow all day. By time I got out on the trails in the afternoon there was a powdery 2″ layer of the fresh stuff. I decided to avoid the MTB specific trails and ride some of the neighborhood multi-use trails. Mostly for a change of scenery from the Saturday ride. Some of these trails are snowmobile trails once there is enough snow. Right now there’s not enough for the snowmobiles to use the trails. To keep this short the rest of this post will be a picture post from my Sunday ride.




So good to have the winter season underway. If this would turn out to be a cold winter we could have snow on the ground until April. That’s a lot of snow bike rides to look forward to.

Global Fat Bike Day 2016


Well, being an introvert, and learning to accept that, I’ve learned I’m happier when I don’t seek out large gatherings of people. I’ve become comfortable with going it alone or with a few other people. Throw in the fact I have Celiac Disease and can’t partake in the eating of most common foods and the consumption of beer, there’s not a lot to draw me to groups. So I don’t take much notice to events that are designed to be large social gatherings. Hence my lack of interest in the Global Fat Bike Day. Sure I like fat bikes. I’ve been riding a fat bike longer then 99.9999999% of the current owners of fatbikes. I bought my first fatbike, seen above, in June 2006. Sure I’d love to celebrate these amazing bicycles with others. But then all the above mentioned issues put up all kind of road blocks for me. Not looking for sympathy. Like I said, I’ve become very comfortable going it alone most of the time. It’s so much easier and so much less mentally taxing.

Saturday was the appointed day for the celebration of fatbikes. I’m sure there were several local gatherings. But I conveniently had a home project I was working on. Staining our new patio door and trim. img_2221

I don’t have much experience at staining. So I needed to take my time. Sand, stain, let dry, sand, stain, let dry, sand, clear coat, let dry, sand, clear coat. It’s a time intensive project. No time for bike rides this weekend. Besides, we’re used to having snow and ice this time of year…you know, fatbike weather. Not only do we not have snow, (enough to ride on) the lakes aren’t even frozen, the ground isn’t frozen yet, and the mountain bikes trails are closed because of muddy conditions. So, what’s the point.

By two o’clock I had made good progress on the door and was feeling the need to get outside away from the fumes for awhile. So I figured a quick solo ride on the fatbike and my own little fatbike celebration ride would be suitable.


I pieced together a few different trails and paths and abandoned railroads and ended up having a great ride. I knew it’d be dark before I made it home so I brought along lights. It was a wonderful ride. Here’s the route.


I decided to ride up the hill to the abandoned DWP rail line and try to reach the tunnel before it got dark. The tunnel is creepy enough in the day time. The above picture is where I picked up the DWP.


The DWP used to be a pretty good secret. You’d never see people up here. Only the locals out walking their dogs. But more and more people are finding out about it. In the next year or two it will be improved and added to the local trail network. But for now it still has that abandoned feel to it.


The tunnel is eery. Dark and creepy. It’s about 500 feet in length and goes under Ely’s Peak. It curves slightly so you can’t see the other side until you are about halfway through. A big chunk of the ceiling has fallen and is partially blocking the path through the tunnel.


As I was taking a photo of the tunnel another fatbiker arrived. He didn’t even slow down and mumbled something about not being the only one out here. He entered the tunnel and quickly disappeared, as if the darkness of the tunnel swallowed him up. You can see the light of his head lamp lighting up the tunnel in the above picture.


It should be very cool when they open this trail to the public. They have some work ahead. Some wash outs and a major chunk of the hillside has slid down onto the trail above. Almost completely blocking the trail.

In the end I think my Global Fat Bike Day 2016 solo ride was a smashing success.